chain reading

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been dabbling in a new addiction (when it comes to compulsive behaviors, I’m disappointingly uncommitted in the long term). I’m calling it “chain reading.” Here’s how it works:

When I start getting drowsy during my wind-down-before-bed reading, rather than pulling up the covers, turning out the lights, and drifting blissfully into unconsciousness, I instead pick up another book. If I choose well―something with just enough difference in tone, genre, and subject matter―my mind actually wakes up enough to keep reading for another 20-30 minutes. The brilliant part, though, is when my interest in this second book begins to wane; at this point I now reach for a third book. I think you get the picture.

At the moment there must be about twelve books stacked beside my bed, in two neat piles. That’s enough to keep me transitioning from book to book for many hours after a reasonable bedtime. Before I know it, it’s 3:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. It’s pretty much guaranteed by then that I’ll be several hours late for work, that I’ll have dark circles under my eyes, and that I will move through the business of the day in a kind of distracted stupor. And best of all, I’ll have to work later in the evening to make up for my lost hours, which means I’ll be starting my reading that much later the following night, and thus the vicious cycle perpetuates itself. It has really been exhilarating; nothing makes you feel more alive than burning up your health and vitality on some reckless personal read-a-thon, night after night after night.

Anyway, for those who are interested, here is a list of some of the books that have been keeping me up at night (and remember, it’s the combination of as many random elements as possible that make the whole system workable):

Nineteen books piled beside my bed.

  • The Best American Essays: 2009, Mary Oliver and Robert Atwan (editors) (978-0618982721)
  • The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White (978-0205632640)
  • The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan (978-0312850098)
  • Final Crisis, Grant Morrison (writer) and J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy, and Doug Mahnke (artists) (978-1401222819)
  • A History of Philosophy, Vol. 1: Greece and Rome, Frederick Copleston, S.J. (978-0385468435)
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie (978-0671723651)
  • India’s Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes, Karline McLain (978-0253352774)
  • On Writing, Stephen King (978-0671024253)
  • Rama (Amar Chitra Katha), Anant Pai (978-8175080980)
  • Spider-man: American Son, Joe Kelly (writer) and Phil Jimenez (artist) (978-0785138709)
  • The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom (978-1591841838)
  • Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives, ed. Pat Harrigan and Noah Waldrip-Fruin (978-0262232630)

3 responses to “chain reading

  1. Do you like Steven King's writing book? The girls in my group keep telling me to read it, but they also tell me to beware of the… "writing personality," we'll call it. Is it worth reading or not?Happy reading!

  2. I thought the dark circles were make-up for your halloween costume! I didn't realize that you didn't have to put anything on to be a 'dirty pirate, Arrgh!"

  3. I’ve definitely been looking the part, Cougarg. I think that night, staying to play scum, was what got me started on these late nights. Cecily, I think you might appreciate it overall but there are some aspects that you might no appreciate so much (some pretty casual swearing, for example). I could give you more details, if you’d like. I think, though, that Stephen King is a pretty decent guy with some good advice on writing.

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